By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
At a time when Arab anti-Semitism is rampant and Western European anti-Semitism is stirring from its nearly 60-year nap, it would be understandable if Israelis said, “To hell with it -- we‘ll go it alone.” Yet a clear majority of them don’t. They have some familiarity, after all, with the advantages of internationally recognized frontiers. The border between Jordan and Israel, to which both parties agreed, is quiet. The Sinai border between Israel and Egypt, recognized a quarter-century ago by Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin, is patrolled by a token, third-party force of U.S. soldiers and is as silent as the desert it runs through. Any fence, these Israelis understand, can provide some measure of security, but they want more than any fence. The people of the book want it in writing -- a fence, of course, but also a treaty, a genuine accord that creates the possibility of international legitimacy, of a sustainable way of life.
In a recent article in The American Prospect (check it out at www.prospect.org), columnist John Judis argued that what really separates the Democrats‘ multilateral view of foreign policy from the Republicans’ go-it-alone routine is a very different view of the world. The Democrats, Judis wrote, have a Lockean perspective -- that the world is best governed by contracts and concords, that allies and alliances (NATO, for one) afford the most practical way to achieve order and peace. The Republicans are Hobbesians: Life is nasty, brutish and short out there; best to trust no one and carry the biggest damned stick you‘ve ever seen.
What divides Democrats from Republicans in a fundamental way divides Israelis from each other in an existential one. Sharon not only has never met a Palestinian he can trust, he can’t even imagine a Palestinian who, out of national self-interest, would accept a reasonable settlement. And while the conduct of Yasser Arafat over the past two years may give some weight to Sharon‘s applied Hobbesianism, his view ignores all evidence to the contrary: the great reduction in Palestinian violence in the years when they believed the Oslo process would be implemented, for instance, or the Saudi proposal just last month.
The Bush gang, of course, wins the Thomas Hobbes sweepstakes for its consistent dismissal of the rest of the world. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has dragged it kicking and screaming into a world where the opinions of Arab nations actually matter, where the U.S. must actually negotiate a settlement. Sharon’s bulldozer approach still has its champions within the administration (Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, most notably), but for others, the road to Iraq has been re-routed through the West Bank. Absent a settlement there, it‘s hard to see any state near Iraq consenting to be a staging grounds for the Iraqi invasion.
Of late, Sharon is mixing Hobbesianism with chutzpah: unelecting Arafat; proposing, in effect, that he himself should designate the next leader of Palestine. (Who does Sharon think he is? The CIA?) William Safire, The New York Times’ brilliant conservative columnist, once wrote that Sharon and he belonged to a small group of guys who had dubbed themselves the shtarkers -- Yiddish for strong ones, tough guys. If the measure of shtarkerdom is the willingness to use force, then shtarkers they be. As strategists, however -- as leaders who can think their way to a genuine solution to Israel‘s plight -- they’re not shtarkers at all. They‘re shmendricks. (Translates to “pip-squeaks,” and -- ah, Yiddish -- sounds that way, too.)